Bill Gibbins must surely have shed a joyful tear at Warrnambool last Sunday when he saw High Mode take line honours in the nation’s inaugural running of the Jericho Cup.
A final year Parade College student of the class of 1963, Bill, with his foresight and generosity, was the motivating force behind the formation of this historic horse race 100 years after Bill The Bastard won the cup over three miles in a race involving Australia’s Light Horsemen at Jericho in Palestine.
A number of Old Paradians, amongst them Terry Henderson (1966) Chris Jackson (1978), Dale McCann (1979) and Gerry Walsh (1973), together with Honorary Old Paradian Maurie Considine (2014) and his son Brendon, joined Bill at the track in support of the philanthropist, whose motivation in reviving the race run over three miles stemmed from his reading of Roland Perry’s tome Bill The Bastard three years ago.
Bill took the Jericho Cup concept to the Warrnambool Racing Club which immediately embraced it, and in turn Racing Victoria.
The rest, as they say, is equine history.
The inaugural running of the Jericho Cup attracted an audience of almost 5000 to Warrnambool Racecourse, amongst them the Federal Member for Wannon Dan Tehan, who was quoted as saying: “I fully support any nomination for Bill to be presented with an OAM”.
“Bill has put up his own money, time and efforts over the last three years to ensure this event was an outstanding success. I consider Bill Gibbins to be an unsung Australian hero. His generosity is quite amazing,” said Minister Tehan to Warrnambool’s The Standard newspaper.
“Bill’s brainchild has given a massive boost to the economy across the south-west district over the weekend, with thousands of people from various parts of Australia visiting the area and their visits culminating in attending the Warrnambool races. Bill has the unique ability to mix it with people from all levels of life.”
The minister has since called on Racing Victoria to ensure the Jericho Cup race day a standalone Saturday meeting, and Bill himself has committed to the race for at least the next four years – in enduring tribute to the nation’s greatest warhorse and the brave young men of Australia’s Light Horse Regiment.
Bill, a retired trucking magnate, said his motivation in committing three years to the planning of the Jericho Cup was based on his admiration for the mounted troops of the Light Horse.
"All you ever hear these days are negatives about our history - the dark side and not the good side - there are plenty of good stories you don't hear about and the stories about these men are nothing short of sensational," Bill said.
"You've got to remember the times in which these men enlisted. For them it was as much about seeing the world as anything else, but when they were confronted with the harsh realities they stuck together."
Bill doubts that he'll ever forget the inaugural Jericho Cup race day on Australian soil - a day in which he also happened to back High Mode at the juicy odds of 14-1.
images: Jay Town (Source:News Corp Australia); Dale McCann